In the wild, you can expect a bearded dragon to live about 3 to 4 years. When they are in captivity, the bearded dragon can live about 8 to 10 years. There are some exceptions to the rule, with some bearded dragons living up to 13 years and beyond.
That being said, it always becomes a huge worry if we think our bearded dragon is dying. What could be the problem? Why did it happen?
The signs of a dying bearded dragon are having white or gray patches on its mouth, lethargy, sunken eyes, labored breathing, muscle tremors, deformed bones, loss of weight, inability to eat, wrinkled skin, and skin rot.
In this article, I will show you some symptoms that indicate your bearded dragon is dying, and what you can do about it.
Signs Your Bearded Dragon Is Dying
Here is an infographic that helps you to understand if your bearded dragon is dying or if there might be something else wrong with him/her.
So let’s have a look at the symptoms in detail. Please note that if your bearded dragon is showing just one of the symptoms, it might be that your beardie is just sick but can be saved.
However, the more symptoms your bearded dragon is showing at the same time, the more likely it is that your bearded dragon is about to die.
1. White or Gray Yellow Patches Near the Mouth
Known as infectious stomatitis, this is a condition affecting many reptiles, including bearded dragons. You will first notice a change in your pet’s behavior in that they become quite lethargic and avoid eating their food.
There is a multitude of reasons as to why they could be doing this, so it is worth it to check out their mouth and see what’s going on.
Look for white or yellow-gray patches located around the mouth, as well as some inflammation and swelling. Your dragon may also look like he is drooling as a result of producing a lot more saliva.
It was discussed in this study that finding grayish and yellowish patches on the mouth of your beardie meant that there are gastrointestinal, respiratory, skeletal, and even neurological issues present. It can be either of the systems or a combination of those.
How to Handle Mouth Rot?
The first thing to do is to make an appointment with your veterinarian right away.
Next, you can try some home remedies to get your bearded dragon feeling like himself again. Use Betadine (get it here) on a qtip over the affected area.
Make sure you do not leave a lot of the Betadine on the swab, or their mouths, as this is not good for the dragons to ingest.
You may need to water down the betadine a bit. This solution may or may not resolve the problem, but no matter what, you should speak with a vet about the issue and get antibiotics if necessary.
Tip: Get more info on how to deatl with mouth rot in beardies here from our mouth rot guide.
How to Prevent Mouth Rot?
Insects that you serve to your bearded dragon are usually the culprit. These bugs can harbor bacteria, which leads to an infection on your bearded dragon.
If your beardie’s habitat is too cold, the immune system of the reptile will also be lowered. Having too high of humidity will also have this effect.
As a result, make sure the temps are always where they need to be. Check your beardie over every day to make sure you catch this early.
2. Your Bearded Dragon Is Lethargic And Unresponsive
If you see your bearded dragon not moving around, or just acting very lethargic, there are a few things that could be at play here.
First, think about your tank temps. You should have a thermometer that keeps you up to speed on the tank temperature.
If the tank temp is too low, the metabolism of the bearded dragon will slow, and you will find they severely lack in appetite as well as motivation to do things.
As a result, immediately check your thermometer and get the temperature gradient where it needs to be because this is one of the building blocks of keeping your bearded dragon feeling healthy.
Tip: If your bearded dragon is acting lethargic, we show you multiple reasons for that in this article.
A Note on Brumation
If temps are okay, it could be a brumation that your bearded dragon is going through. Brumation is a period I can best liken to hibernation.
The metabolism and energy of the reptile slow right down, and they do this as a means of adapting to the changing seasons.
Winter days are shorter, and the sun is less prominent. As a result, bearded dragons do not get enough sunlight to survive- or insects, for that matter, because with the coming of winter also comes the dying off of bugs and plants needed to survive.
The end result is the survival instinct of brumation, which bearded dragons have learned over the years in which a beardie can live for several months without the need for food or water.
And even though we as owners do a great job of providing light, food, and water, sometimes biology just takes over.
It may or may not happen to your bearded dragon. As a result, do not simply write lethargy off as this action; instead, inspect your tank’s equipment to make sure it is adequately giving your pet what he needs.
3. Eyes Are Sunken In
They say the eyes are the window to the soul. Oddly enough, that is sort of the case with bearded dragons, too.
Take some time each day to look into the eyes of your bearded dragon. You can even tell them how much you love them and value their friendship if you want.
In all seriousness, looking into the eyes of the reptile can tell you how they are feeling. Do you notice sunken eyes in the beardie? If so, there’s a good chance that he or she is dehydrated.
Thankfully, you can fix this, and it does NOT have to mean death. Begin by placing fresh, cool water into their tank for them to drink. If this is not working, put the water into a dropper and get them to drink that way.
You can also use an electrolyte drink like Pedialyte (get it here) or even a sports drink like Gatorade to get your beardie back to life.
Pedialyte is the ideal option because it replaces electrolytes, is more effective than a regular everyday drink, and is available in a few different flavors.
It may help bring your beardie back from the edge of dehydration and avoid death.
Another dehydration test you can run is to pinch the skin of your reptile gently. If the skin does not go back into its rightful place immediately, they need some water and should be served some right away.
Tip: Read our guide on sunken eyes in bearded dragons here to get more info.
4. Labored or Shallow Breathing
Bearded dragons can have pneumonia or other respiratory infections. It usually happens when the bearded dragon is stressed out, not being fed correctly, or being kept in poor conditions.
They may get respiratory tract infections by coming into contact with fungi, parasites, and viruses. The affected bearded dragon may sneeze, or you may even see discharge coming from their eyes or their nose.
The dragon may also experience open-mouthed breathing, lack of appetite or decreased appetite, and lethargic behavior.
What are the reasons behind such a matter? Here are just a few of them:
- The relative humidity is too high
- The temperature may be too low or high
- An infection has spread from one beardie to another
- Diet lacks vitamins and minerals
Look also for these symptoms of respiratory infection in your bearded dragon:
- Mucus around the nose and mouth
- Gasping, almost as if they were choking
- Having a limited appetite
These signs are all indicative of respiratory infection in your bearded dragon, and the animal should be brought to a vet immediately.
He or she will give you some medicine that you might administer using a syringe into the mouth of your bearded dragon.
If you are having trouble with any of the mentioned reasons, check our articles on them here:
- Bearded Dragon Humidity Guide
- Beardie Temperature Guide
- What To Feed A Bearded Dragon
- Bearded Dragon Food List
5. Your Bearded Dragon Is Dragging Himself
If your dragon looks like his back legs are no longer functional, impaction could be the problem. It can affect the front legs, too.
Impaction takes place when a bearded dragon’s digestive tract is blocked thanks to a mass that is solid or semi-solid.
Impaction can happen for a few different reasons. For starters, food could be the culprit. Large crickets, for example, could lead to impaction. Having an improper temp in the tank could also be the problem.
And some substrates have been known to cause impaction. That’s why I advise against using a substrate that is mixed with calcium.
Look for these signs:
- Leg trembles
- Unable to eliminate waste regularly, straining when trying to go
- Not walking correctly
- Dragging the legs
The thing to do when treating impaction is to contact a vet for help and also offer a warm bath for him. Massage his sides gently as you go about it.
It may help you get that waste inside moving and out of your bearded dragon, where it belongs. Then, allow your beardie back into his enclosure and let him move around at his own pace.
This study showed that impaction may also be a sign of underlying serious diseases such as Nutritional Secondary Hyperparathyroidism and constipation.
6. Muscle Tremors, Twitching, and a Weak Appearance
What you could be seeing in your bearded dragon is what I know to be Metabolic Bone Disease. Sadly, by the time the symptoms begin to show, the matter has become quite dangerous.
Some of these symptoms will show up a bit earlier than the others. You should take the animal to the vet right away so that recovery can take place immediately.
This particular disease is a lot like osteoporosis when it comes to human beings. It happens because they are kept in captivity and are not able to regulate their food intake or UVB light exposure.
Even though I do not recommend sand that is rich in calcium, it is still crucial that bearded dragons get enough calcium in their diets.
If they do not get enough, the body begins to break down the bones in order to do just that.
You can keep your beardie free of MBD by making sure the light in their habitat is adequate. Make sure they get calcium by dusting crickets using supplements just two times per week.
I advise against using supplements more than that because this can lead to poisoning your bearded dragon.
Based on this study, it is also possible that MBD is not just caused by a lack of calcium, it can also be due to chronic kidney disease and excess phosphorus in the diet.
Tip: Read our Metabolic Bone Disease Guide here. It will show you what you can do if your beardie has it.
7. Deformed Bones
Bearded dragons that suffer from metabolic bone disease have soft and deformed looking bones. This could come in the form of a weird-looking spine or leg or even a mouth that cannot close any longer.
The bones become fragile and fracture far too easily, and jaws that have become softened begin to recede. These are the indicators of bone decay.
It is a sign that the dragon is not getting adequate calcium in his or her diet.
Watch for dragons that walk in a shaky manner, especially having issues controlling their hind legs. Baby dragons should be watched closely, too-young dragons’ growth can be stunted if they are nutritionally deficient.
If left untreated, the dragon lives a life of suffering for sometimes years before eventually dying. How can you prevent Metabolic Bone Disease?
Make sure you are providing adequate nutrition. Make sure to feed adult beardies crickets, locusts or dubia roaches dusted with a quality calcium supplement 2-3 times per week.
Make sure veggies are given six days a week and fruits are kept to a minimum.
You should also make sure that the lighting in your tank is adequate, too. UVB is needed to ensure calcium absorption. This study proves the effectiveness of utilizing UVB lights in calcium absorption.
Simply putting the tank near a window will not work, either- the UVB waves cannot make it through the glass.
If the tank is not warm enough, the dragons cannot metabolize their food. The solution? Make sure the temp is kept at 95 to 100 for the basking spot.
The prevention of metabolic bone disease is relatively easy: Just make sure you keep a close eye on the tank and your reptile.
8. They’re Losing Weight, Having Diarrhea, or On Their Backs
Atadenovirus is quite rare, but I have included it because it can happen. If you have an adult beardie that has NOT been around other reptiles in the recent past, it is unlikely atadenovirus is the cause.
If you have recently acquired a baby from a pet store, it is possible that they are infected.
Look for the following signs in your baby beardie:
- Diarrhea (Read our guide on that here)
- Stargazing- Looking up at the sky continuously, stretching their neck upward
- Losing weight
- Randomly going onto their back
The last two symptoms are especially important because they indicate impairment of the brain. You should get your pet to a vet but bear in mind there is no cure for this.
The goal is to provide support to your bearded dragon until the disease goes dormant.
It may be the case that your bearded dragon does not survive this ailment. Unfortunately, by the time the stargazing and flipping onto the back symptoms show, it is usually too late for treatment.
It was found in this study that the majority of beardies that were tested to be stargazing had a high mortality rate despite constant treatment.
However, you should still get your bearded dragon in for a look from your vet.
9. Your Bearded Dragon Is Not Able to Catch His Prey
Another major thing to watch out for is the bearded dragon’s ability to catch their prey. Bearded dragons who suffer from metabolic bone disease are unable to aim correctly at their food. They “shoot” at the crickets, but always miss.
Baby bearded dragons may miss the mark because they are still learning and are not as developed as adults. Hunting is a skill that takes time to learn, so don’t worry so much if your baby dragon can’t get the hang quite yet.
However, adults that miss their crickets and other food due to MBD may become even more malnourished than they already are – and it’s also very frustrating to the dragon that he cannot catch his food.
The experience is heartbreaking to say the least-it’s best to always do what is right by your dragon to ensure proper nutrition and a clean habitat.
As you may have guessed, this is caused by metabolic bone disease. As you can see, metabolic bone disease really puts a hamper on bearded dragons living a normal and fulfilling life.
As a result, it’s best to just do the right thing and ensure you get them the calcium, lighting, and nutrition they need.
10. Your Bearded Dragon Is Not Eating At All
Having a beardie that is not eating is a scary thing. I always advise owners to check the lamps when it comes to these reptiles because it is one of the foundations for a healthy bearded dragon.
It is important to remember that bearded dragons are from Australia, where there is a lot of heat and light. It stimulates the appetite of the bearded dragon and helps them feel at home.
Having the right light is also crucial in making sure that metabolic bone disease is prevented. It also gets them the vital nutrient Vitamin D.
Make sure your reptile’s enclosure has at least a 100w – 150W incandescent Light bulb and a UVB (I recommend getting this one) lamp for the best results.
It will keep the tank temps at those optimum numbers, which are 78 to 88 degrees during the day and 70 degrees at night.
11. Your Bearded Dragon Has Wrinkled Skin
Bearded dragons have wrinkles, and this is completely natural. Their skin is not as stretchy as some other animals’.
The thing to do is visually inspect your bearded dragon every day for his skin. If his tail is in good repair and is of the right size and his fat pads are free of indentations, then a bit of wrinkly skin will not be anything to worry about.
But if the tail looks skinny and scrawny and the fat pads do have indents, this could mean they are suffering from being underweight.
Repta Boost is an excellent way to get your beardie feeling good again as it helps malnourished and dehydrated beardies recover.
Just as I mentioned when we talked about beardies having sunken eyes, get your bearded dragon some water by way of a bowl or dropper.
You should also get your hand on a sports drink or Pedialyte quickly as these are great for restoring electrolytes when time is of the essence.
12. The Skin Is Rotting and Discolored
To see rotting, unnatural skin colors on your bearded dragon is enough to make anybody fearful and concerned about the health of their pet. Several issues could be at play here, so let’s break them down.
Firstly, tail rot could be the culprit. Check the rotting or discoloration carefully. If this is taking place on the tail, chances are it is tail rot.
It could, in the best-case scenario, leave your beardie without a tail, or worst-case scenario, leave your bearded dragon dead.
It is not difficult to prevent tail rot; so long as you keep your beardie full of nutrients and have a good, functioning UVB lamp, that is half of it right there.
Second, make sure your beardie lives alone. Bearded dragons are solitary. Third, make sure your beardie has nothing in the habitat that could harm his tail.
Yellow Fungus is another big deal when it comes to bearded dragons. If you notice swollen wounds that are inflamed, it is likely that Yellow Fungus is the culprit. It affects not only the superficial tissues but also the deep ones as well.
Both of these conditions are very serious and will require you to get to a vet immediately.
For Yellow Fungus, there are some home remedies you can try, although they are no substitute for going to speak with a vet about the problem.
For starters, you can use Lamisil on the affected part of the bearded dragon, and on the dry skin. It may or may not work: some beardie owners report having good results, others said it did absolutely nothing for their pet.
It will also depend upon how early you caught sight of the Yellow Fungus. The video below shows you how yellow fungus looks. We recommend to not take any advice from the video.
How Can I Prevent Yellow Fungus?
The best way to prevent Yellow Fungus is to keep the tank and your dragon clean at all times, bathing your beardie if needed, and disinfecting the tank thoroughly at regular intervals.
Is My Bearded Dragon Dying Or Brumating?
Here are the signs that your bearded dragon is just brumating and not dying:
- Starts eating less, but still eats
- Asleep most of the time
- Staying in the hide
- Not using the basking spot
- Avoids being exposed to direct light
- Moving slower than usual
On the other hand, a dying bearded dragon will simply refuse food. If you observe closely, they are not just staying in the hide for the heck of it, but they are too lethargic to come out.
Further, they will also not come out of the hide to drink.
It may be tricky to distinguish when it comes to movement. But a quick test is to place a feeder inside the enclosure.
If your beardie is interested and moves toward the feeder albeit slowly, it is just in brumation. On the contrary, if it does not move or even moves away slowly from the feeder, it can be sick or dying.
Lastly, the biggest giveaway that your beardie is just in brumation is the fact it is fall and winter.
Beardies do not go into brumation if the season is not right unless there is a drastic drop in temperature in the place where its enclosure is located (ie, the air conditioner is on full blast all day).
Tip: Read our beardie brumation guide here! It will answer all the questions you might have on it and show you how it is done.
How To Comfort A Dying Bearded Dragon
It is important to not disrupt the daily schedule of your bearded dragon even if it is already dying. As painful as it may be, you should still offer its food even though it is already refusing food.
Deviating from the schedule may add stress to your already dying bearded dragon as there is a change in its environment. In order to minimize the stress that your beardie is already experiencing, try to minimize the noise outside its enclosure.
You can also cover the enclosure with a cloth (make sure to do this in accordance with its sleep cycle) so it can have some peace and quiet.
Lastly, you can still gently handle your beardies during this difficult time. In this study, it was observed that handling sick or dying beardies for less than 5 minutes are proven to lessen their anxiety.
Wrapping It Up
Now you know what some signs are that your bearded dragon is dying. While this may not be the most happy or uplifting topic, use it to your advantage.
Keep the cage clean and your beardie well-fed and will minimize your risk of ever having to deal with any of these issues.